Back

Omnia Vincit Amor
(Werner van der Valkert)

Description

This rare and exceptionally well-preserved panel by the Dutch late mannerist painter Werner van den Valckert depicts a somewhat ambiguous allegory of the struggle between love and lust. Lust is embodied in a crouching satyr genially abused by Cupid, who personifies love. Valckert’s tight box-like composition reduces the scene to the pure physical tension between the two figures, with only a sprinkling of botanical still life to lend a primal context.
The panel is undated and only relatively recently was recognised as a work by Valckert. At one point the panel had even been offered on the Italian art market as by Jacob Jordaens. Before P. J. J. van Thiel published his chronology of the artist, Valckert was known only as a portraitist working in Amsterdam during the 1620’s. Van Thiel’s work revealed that the artist had actually begun his career in The Hague at least fifteen years earlier. Van Thiel ascribed Omnia vincit Amor to Valckert’s Amsterdam period between around 1613 and 1627 (when he painted most of his subject paintings) and dated it around 1616 based on its formal similarities with The Goat as Bad Leader of the Young one of the artist’s few dated mythological works. In the latter painting (whose present whereabouts are unknown) a mob of putti cavort around a goat arranged tightly across an extended rectangular composition. The entire scene is pushed directly to the front of the picture plane with almost no sense of recession. At the far left a standing putto advances with the left arm extended in an attitude very similar to that of Cupid in the present panel. The pose of the head and animated facial features of the putto riding another (obviously playing ‘Phyllis’ and Aristotle) is very similar in handling to those of the satyr, even if the facial features here are harassed, rather than raucous.
The subject, Omnia Vincit Amor, is taken from Virgil’s Eclogue X line 60, ‘Omnia vincit Amor, et nos cedamus Amori’ (‘Love conquers all, [so] let us surrender to Love’). However, Valckert departed from the traditional formula for illustrating this epigram (which called for a mortal flanked by personifications of sacred and profane love) and reduced his scene to two figures, the viewer serving as the implicit third, further underscoring the subject’s direct moral thrust. In this respect, Omnia Vincit Amor also shares formal similarities with the Venus and Cupid, recently on the Dutch art market, wherein Venus and Cupid both directly engage the viewer, the goddess peeping coyly from beneath a mantle, while Cupid takes beady aim with bow and arrow. Van Thiel dated this work to around 1612 when Valckert was registered in the Guild of Saint Luke in The Hague. During his time in The Hague Valckert worked amongst the artists of the so-called Haarlem school and along with artists such as Cornelius van Haarlem and Hendrik Goeltzius would have been exposed to prints by the Carracci, as well as engravings made after Michelangelo, Paolo Veronese and Giorgio Vasari. In another earlier mythological work, which survives in an engraving, Sleeping Venus (1612) Valckert was directly inspired by the work of the Carracci, and this influence is also apparent in the present work: Valckert’s satyr is similar in pose and handling to the figure of Pan in Agostino’s 1589 engraving of the same subject. Equally, Valckert appears to have been inspired by Vasari’s mannerist compositional formulae and strongly delineated figure style, both of which are reflected in the 1612 engraving and the present work.
Van Thiel argued that Valckert’s mythological subjects, with their sense of academic formalism and generally conservative approach to subject matter, equally reflect the influence of Cornelius van Haarlem and Hendrik Goeltzius, the latter traditionally believed to have been Valckert’s master. However, other scholars see a closer affinity between Valckert’s style and that of his two chief rivals in Amsterdam: Adriaen van Nieulandt and Pieter Isaacsz. Certainly, in the present work the use of warm flesh tones, golden browns and rich pinks to highlight the nude anatomies, tactile use of chiaroscuro and overall sense of drama is typical of other works from Valckert’s Amsterdam period. And notably, though Valckert does not appear to have repeated this subject, the figure of Cupid appears again with the same pose and physiognomy as the figure at left in one of Valckert’s more important religious commissions, Suffer the little children to come unto me, (Catharijneconvent, Utrecht). This figure is also mirrored in the putto bearing a shield in Valckert’s engraving from the same period Saint Luke as the patron saint of painters.
According to documents, Valckert apparently began his career in The Hague in 1605, around the time he married Jannetje Cornelis, daughter of the glass painter Cornelis Sybertsz. Monicx van Montforort. Sometime between 1600 and 1605, he registered as a master in the Guild of St. Luke, but we know nothing of Valckert’s output before 1612, so until this date, he may have worked in his father-in-law’s workshop. There is no evidence to support the idea that he travelled to Italy, and van Thiel also rejects the traditional belief that Valckert studied with Goeltzius.
Initially, Valckert worked as a printmaker in The Hague, producing both woodcuts and engravings. Around 1613, he moved to Amsterdam where he around 1613, he established himself as a subject painter competing with artists like Adriaen van Nieulandt and Pieter Isaacz. for commissions Eventually, however, Valckert focused on portraiture, one of his most famous examples being Portrait of a man with a ring and touchstone (1617, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). Valckert’s patrons in Amsterdam were mainly Remonstrants and Catholics, but also included Protestant nobility and even royalty such as Christian IV of Denmark and presumably also the Stadholder of Amsterdam at that time, Prince Frederick Henry of Orange Nassau.
Christie’s Amsterdam, Old Master Pictures and Drawings, 3 November 2004, lot 65.
Van Thiel, op. cit., p. 137.
See van Thiel, op. cit., p. 133, fig. 7.
C. Schuckman, ‘Werner can den Valckert’, in The Grove Dictionary of Art, London, 2007.
Van Thiel, op. cit., p. 141, fig. 17.

Measurements
78 x 63 cm
Type
Oil on panel
Provenance

Roman art market, 1977
Private collection, Italy

Literature

P. J. J. van Thiel, “Werner Jacobsz. Van den Valckert’, in Oud Holland, xcvii (1983), pp. 141-142, illus. fig. 16, cat. no. 2, p. 178.

Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720 & Mannerism & Cinquecento - 1530-1600
Subject
Literary
School
Netherlandish - Dutch
Price band
Sold or not available